mfioretti: india*

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  1. 31 percent of people who not even heard of the Internet. Male domination is seen in Internet usage as they are about 70 percent of the total Internet folks in India.
    Tags: , , , by M. Fioretti (2011-12-13)
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  2. A centralised database, dual use as identifier and authenticator, and lack of sound legal framework are its main weaknesses.
    Tags: , , , by M. Fioretti (2018-01-09)
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  3. Aadhaar reflects and reproduces power imbalances and inequalities. Information asymmetries result in the data subject becoming a data object, to be manipulated, misrepresented and policed at will.

    Snowden: “Arguing that you don't care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don't care about free speech because you have nothing to say.”

    Snowden’s demolition of the argument doesn’t mean our work here is done. There are many other tropes that my (now renamed) Society for the Rejection of Culturally Relativist Excuses could tackle. Those that insist Indians are not private. That privacy is a western liberal construct that has no place whatsoever in Indian culture. That acknowledging privacy interests will stall development. This makes it particularly hard to advance claims of privacy, autonomy and liberty in the context of large e-governance and identity projects like Aadhaar: they earn one the labels of elitist, anti-progress, Luddite, paranoid and, my personal favourite, privacy fascist.
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  4. One of the key reasons to kick off the Aadhaar-based identification system was to biometrically identify illegal immigrants from neighbouring countries. The irony is, now the Bangladesh government - a significant chunk of illegal immigrants in India are from Bangladesh - wants to study the model and replicate the system in the country. A team from Bangladesh is expected to visit India soon to meet officials from the National Population Register and the Unique Identification Authority of India, the nodal agency that issues Aadhaar cards. Another irony is that the two agencies have been at loggerheads over, among other things, the collection of biometric data and proof of identity.
    Tags: , , , by M. Fioretti (2015-04-07)
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  5. The real concern and apprehension is one about the exclusion of beneficiaries in the transition from a non-Aadhaar regime to an Aadhaar regime for an existing welfare programme. There are plenty of examples in India’s administrative history to learn from, such as the EC’s move from a non-voter identity era to an identified voter regime to curb bogus voting. The availability of choice between the old and the new options for a beneficiary is the cornerstone of such transitions. As long as Aadhaar penetration is not 100 per cent, for an existing programme, the choice of both Aadhaar and non-Aadhaar identities needs to be made available to ensure the non-exclusion of beneficiaries. However, for a new welfare programme to be launched, Aadhaar as a prerequisite is...

    That there is no law for redress against private information abuse is a legitimate argument. But that is an overarching problem in India, one that applies as much to bureaucrats using Google’s email facility for most of their executive functions as it does to Aadhaar. It needs to be addressed by legislating a right to privacy act.
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  6. The electoral verdict is evidence against the diagnosis and remedy of World Bank Group and its Indian votaries. The verdict indicates that political parties that support Aadhaar are bound to pay heavy electoral cost for their involvement and complicity in putting citizens to inconvenience through tried, tested and failed identification technologies of transnational companies.
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  7. They did this by randomly assigning undecided voters who had not yet voted (recruited through print advertisements, online advertisements, and online subject pools) to one of three groups in which search rankings favoured either Mr Gandhi, Mr Kejriwal, or Mr Modi. About 2,000 eligible voters from 26 of India's 28 states (age range 18 to 70, mean age 29.5) participated in the study - not enough to affect the election's outcome. People’s preferences were also pushed equally toward all three candidates, so there was no overall bias in the study.

    Previous research, presented at the 2013 meeting of the Association for Psychological Science in Washington, DC, has demonstrated the enormous power that biased search rankings have to sway voting preferences, presumably because people put inordinate trust in higher-ranked search results, as has been demonstrated by extensive research on consumer behavior.

    In laboratory and online experiments, biased search rankings were shown to sway the voting preferences of undecided voters by 15% or more, with little or no awareness by participants that they were being manipulated. The researchers call this manipulation SEME (pronounced "seem"), for Search Engine Manipulation Effect. A technical report on this research can be accessed here.

    The numbers (in red) displayed below were updated every 15 minutes over the course of the study. Some minor adjustments might still be made as the data are examined by the researchers for irregularities. (People who participated more than once will be eliminated, for example.) The results of the study are organized below into three major categories:
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  8. The 2,000-odd Akshaya e-literacy centres spread across Kerala, launched to provide computer education to at least one member in all families in the state, have become effective centres that help the public to avail a multitude of government as well as private services under one roof.

    The services available to citizens range from e-filing of tax returns, computer training programme of international standards, UID registration, and inding skilled labourers for construction or maintenance work.

    Akshaya registered 15 lakh families in 45 days in the comprehensive health insurance scheme run by Health Insurance Agency of Kerala (CHIAK). Other firms that took up this task could initially register only 20 lakh families in one year.
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  9. The UIDAI goes on about how biometrics are safe and out of reach. The truth is, biometrics are collapsing all round. The figures for biometric failure have been staggering. In Rajasthan, in the PDS, exclusion because of fingerprint failure has been close to 36 per cent — which means not even one person from 36 per cent households are able to authenticate using their fingerprints. Jharkhand has witnessed deaths because the poorest have had difficulty linking their UID number with their ration card. Documents in the UIDAI archive from between 2009 and 2012 show that biometrics was still in an experimental phase. That biometrics are not working as hoped is made evident in the Watal Committee report on digital transactions, in December 2016. At pp. 123-124, the committee says that biometric authentication requires the availability of internet and high-quality machines capable of capturing biometric details, making it contingent on these working. So, the committee asks that for digital transactions, the “OTP sent on registered mobile number of Aadhaar holder” be allowed, thereby downgrading biometrics.

    Digital payments are in the business interest; not PDS. So, while fingerprints cause huge problems to the poor, the business interest shifts to other means because biometrics are not dependable.

    The mantra has, in fact, been JAM — Jan Dhan, Aadhaar, mobile — three numbers that make up identity. It was in 2010 that Nandan Nilekani said to a reporter: “The slogan of “bijli, sadak, paani” is passé; ‘virtual things’ like UID number, bank account and mobile phone are the in-thing.” That is the imagination that is driving the project today. It is these three numbers that are being exposed in the breaches. Then, to say that all is well is clearly not quite the truth.

    The project is putting people, and the nation, at risk. Those in court challenging the project have been demanding that the project be scrapped — not just the UIDAI, but the project. The breaches explain why what they are asking makes sense.
    Tags: , , , by M. Fioretti (2018-01-07)
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  10. A form of poetry in India called Vachana sahitya is part of the popular Indian language, Kannada. It evolved in the 11th century and flourished in the 12th as part of the religious Lingayatha movement. Since that time, more than 259 Vachana writers, called Vachanakaru, have compiled over 11,000 Vachanas (verses).

    21,000 of these verses were digitally published into 15 volumes, called Samagra Vachana Samputa, by the government of Karnataka. These volumes were then turned into a standalone project called Vachana Sanchaya; this project was taken on by two Kannada Wikimedians, a Kannada linguist, and the author O. L. Nagabhushana Swamy—to enrich the Kannada WikiSource. This team used Unicode, a standard of consistency for converting text (and code) into a new format.

    Swamy was trying to access these poems, and was having trouble because it was in ISCII, an Indian character encoding standard. We began writing scripts to make the Vachanas (poems) searchable by an index. But, in order to do that well, we had to build a platform for everyone to use: the linguistic researchers, students, and the public at large who are interested in reaching this literature.

    Omshivaprakash, a Kannada Wikimedian, worked on the architecture of the platform, decided the infrastructure requirements, and chose the open source software tools to use. I was involved in providing critical hacks for digitization and valuable inputs through suggestions, feedback, and quality assurance.

    At present, our repository, Vachana Sanchaya, has around 200,000 unique words that were derived from these poems
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